Hospo Voice, the hospitality arm of the United Workers Union, is outraged to learn from a leaked administrator’s report that Dinner by Heston stole an extraordinary $4.5 million from its workers and that when the venue first opened Crown Resorts set up the “blueprint” for how these workers were engaged.
Crown has tried to distance itself from Heston Blumenthal’s Melbourne-branded venue, which is facing eviction from Crown in just over a week, leaving dozens of highly-skilled hospitality staff out of work.
BRI Ferrier, Dinner by Heston’s administrators, described the venue as a “a joint venture” between Crown Melbourne and Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd, a company located in a Caribbean tax haven. Today’s revelations include that the lease to Crown is only $1 a year, the venue trades using Crown bank accounts and Crown even takes a share of profits. Crown also paid a company related to Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd (“Bacon & Egg Ice Cream Pty Ltd”) a licensing fee of one million pounds each year, paid in advance.
The report states that when the venue first opened Crown set up the employment “blueprint” for how the majority of staff were engaged, resulting in the underpayment of employee wages.
Jo-anne Schofield, National President of United Workers Union says, “Our members feel betrayed by the revelations in the administrator’s report and the move by Crown to terminate the restaurant’s lease.
“Despite massive wage theft being exposed in late 2018, Crown continued backing this venue financially. Crown used the celebrity of Heston Blumenthal as a drawcard to lure big spending customers, who stayed in Crown’s hotels and gambled at its casino.
“Crown may have now booted Heston’s restaurant, but we won’t let them abandon workers who are owed $4.5 million. Crown has been complicit in the exploitation of hospitality workers on its premises.
“The wage theft from just this one venue is in the order of $4.5 million. Despite this, Crown continued backing Dinner by Heston through the joint venture that saw them pay rent of only $1 a year and a million pounds a year sent overseas in an intellectual property deal. Meanwhile hospitality workers are owed up to $35,000, after working 80-90 hour weeks. There are workers who face losing sponsored visa status and being forced to leave the country, because of Crown’s move to now evict Dinner by Heston. It is shameful that Crown is yet to take steps to look after the welfare or security of these workers who contributed so much to the Crown brand.
“Hospo Voice members are fighting to hold Crown to account. We have requested that Crown repay all unpaid wages and entitlements owed to our members – and offer employment to these members as well as sponsoring those who are on temporary visas.
“And this is a warning to global celebrity chefs wanting to set up shop in Australia, you must abide by our workplace laws, pay your workers correctly and treat them with respect, or you will not be welcome here.”
William Trist, former Dinner by Heston chef says, “I worked at Dinner by Heston for more than two years. Some weeks we worked more than 80 hours and never worked less than 60 hours. We are owed millions in stolen wages.
“It strains relationships when you work such massive hours. And then to get ripped off is the ultimate slap in the face. I feel angry that we’ve been treated like this.
“I think it’s absolutely crazy that this company was structured so they don’t pay tax, could steal from their workers and then walk away without any repercussions.
“While it’s only coming to light now just how closely this business was connected to Crown, it was always clear to us. I was recruited through the Crown website. While I worked there we were treated like Crown staff. We had back of house access like other Crown staff. We ate in the Crown staff canteen.
“Crown used us as a drawcard for their high rollers. We cooked for them. Then they went and spent all their money on Crown’s gaming tables – Crown has a responsibility to us.”
Steve*, current Dinner By Heston Chef on a temporary visa says, “I am tired of being screwed over by this company. I feel like indentured labour.
“We were made to work these crazy hours and we’re so terrified of speaking out or standing up for our rights. We were told we were lucky to work 70-80 hours a week. My visa has been hanging in the balance for over six months. My whole life is in Australia. And I face losing it all.
“It was a joint venture. I got transferred from another Crown restaurant. And now they are trying to pretend Dinner by Heston was just a tenant and we are being left to our own devices. I feel abandoned by Crown.”
In 2018, Hospo Voice exposed massive wage theft at Dinner By Heston, handing a complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman showing individual workers had been underpaid by up $35,000, often working more than 60 hours a week while on annualised salaries. Some workers reported working 80-90 hours per week. In December 2018, the Ombudsman raided Dinner By Heston and since then has been pursing it for millions in stolen wages.
Dinner By Heston is one of a string of high profile venues and celebrity chefs exposed by Hospo Voice, a digital union for hospitality workers, including Rockpool, Shannon Bennett, George Calombaris and Grill’d.
*Name changed to protect identity
Photos of Dinner by Heston workers available here
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